The Department of Justice has sued the state of North Carolina, along with its governor and the University of North Carolina, for violating the U.S. Civil Rights Act as they seek to implement the transphobic HB2 law.
The suit, filed Monday afternoon, asks a U.S. District Court in North Carolina to declare these bodies in violation of Title IX, which prevents discrimination at public schools based on sex, and Title VII, which prevents discrimination of public employees, as well as in violation of the Violence Against Women Act. It also seeks an injunction to prevent HB2 from being implemented.
In a press conference announcing the suit, Attorney General Loretta Lynch compared HB2 to Jim Crow laws.
This is not the first time that we have seen discriminatory responses to historic moments of progress for our nation. We saw it in the Jim Crow laws that followed the Emancipation Proclamation. We saw it in fierce and widespread resistance to Brown v. Board of Education. And we saw it in the proliferation of state bans on same-sex unions intended to stifle any hope that gay and lesbian Americans might one day be afforded the right to marry.
And she specifically referenced North Carolina's history of regulating which people can access public spaces.
It was not so very long ago that states, including North Carolina, had signs above restrooms, water fountains and on public accommodations keeping people out based upon a distinction without a difference. We have moved beyond those dark days, but not without pain and suffering and an ongoing fight to keep moving forward.
The idea that sexual predators would take advantage of laws permitting transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with, as HB2 supporters have suggested, is nothing more than a pretense to discriminate against a vulnerable population, she said.
You’ve been told that this law protects vulnerable populations from harm–but that just is not the case. Instead, what this law does is inflict further indignity on a population that has already suffered far more than its fair share. This law provides no benefit to society–all it does is harm innocent Americans.
The prosecutor in charge of the case, Vanita Gupta, also noted that calling HB2 a "bathroom bill" does a disservice to the trans community.
Calling H.B. 2 a “bathroom bill” trivializes what this is really about. H.B. 2 translates into discrimination in the real world. The complaint we filed today speaks to public employees who feel afraid and stigmatized on the job. It speaks to students who feel like their campus treats them differently because of who they are. It speaks to sports fans who feel forced to choose between their gender identity and their identity as a Tar Heel. And it speaks to all of us who have ever been made to feel inferior–like somehow we just don’t belong in our community, like somehow we just don’t fit in.
"Let me reassure every transgender individual, right here in America, that you belong just as you are. You are supported. And you are protected," Gupta added.
In response to the ultimatum given last week by the Justice Department that he had until the end of the day Monday to dismantle HB2, N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory filed his own lawsuit against the Department of Justice, accusing it of federal overreach.
The Justice Department is so far refraining from withholding federal education funds, as they would be entitled to do in a Title IX violation, as they await further response from state officials, Lynch said.
Here is the DOJ suit:
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.